I did not pick that fountain at random, or because I thought you’d be able to easily recognize it. I did not pick it because I knew I’d have several angles of approach where I’d be able to see you before you saw me, which meant that I wouldn't look silly if I didn't recognize you. I did not pick it because I was thinking that, if we didn’t hit it off, I’d use it as my meeting place for all of my future dates, too. All of those things are true, but that isn't why I decided on that spot. I picked it because of a dream I had eight years ago.
The sculpture is an inverted, rounded ziggurat with alternating layers of yellow and black, like a child’s drawing of a bumblebee. The water flows down from a pool at the top, forming a sheet that partially obscures the body of the fountain, and creates a rat-a-tat sound as it hits the lower pool. Everything else at the mall is Italianate cast concrete. This bright, modern piece stands out, even though it is tucked in behind the Starbucks and the California Pizza Kitchen. I’ve always loved it.
In my dream, the fountain had been elongated into a tub in a gorgeous bathroom suite. I was one of several personal advisers to the owner of said suite, and we were all standing around patiently, clipboards and notepads clasped to our chests, while he enjoyed an afternoon soak. His name was Fidel Castro.
He was sitting in the bathtub, wearing an olive green cap and a pair of swim trunks. He had a rubber frog in one hand and a loaded revolver in the other, and he was happily playing with both, splashing them through the water and covering them with bubbles. We watched with amusement as he had a sing-song dialogue with the frog while pressing the gun muzzle to its bulging eye. He must have then decided that they’d reached a truce, his amphibian captive and he, because he made a beard and bushy eyebrows for it out of the suds. “¡Viva la rana Castro!” He was having a ball.
We’d let him stay in there for as long as we could, but time was running short. “Fidel, you have an appearance in a few minutes, and your fingers are going to prune. C’mon, jefe. Time to get out.”
The shot startled us all, but none more than Castro himself. We all jumped, then froze in place for several seconds, nobody sure who had fired or who had been hit. Castro had many enemies, but there was no sight line from outside the palace into his bathroom.
His advisers stared wide-eyed at him, and he stared back at us, suds clinging to his eyelashes and the end of his nose. He looked comical, but we were all too shocked to laugh.
The ringing in my ears went away after a few seconds, allowing me to hear the steady stream of bath water hitting the floor. I looked from Castro’s blank, stunned face to the small, round hole in the lower left corner of the tub wall. I looked back at Castro and saw that the gun was still in his hand, pointing down between his shriveled feet.
“What did you do, Fidel? What have I told you about guns in the bathtub?!”
I don’t know how the gun - steeped in a warm froth of Calgon and scoured by bath salts – was able to fire. I don’t know how he didn’t shoot one of us, or shoot himself in the foot. We all knew that we had quite literally dodged a bullet. The tub had not been so lucky.
For a brief moment, I thought that it would be possible to plug the hole with a towel, just to hold the water in long enough to drain the basin. Before I could even move to reach for the towel bar, the crazing around the hole spread wider, and the structure failed under the pressure. The stream turned into a deluge as the tub wall gave way. A wave of soapy water surged across the slate grey floor, breaking over our feet and flowing out of the doorway behind us to flood the Turkish rug in the hallway. Bits of black and gold ceramic littered the ground like broken shells on a beach at low tide. I was wearing a pair of leather and suede pumps, and I was furious that they were now ruined.
Castro was still seated in what remained of the bathtub, clutching his revolver. He hunched his shoulders and looked up at us sheepishly from under the brim of his cap, runnels of water flowing off of his scraggly beard onto his round belly.
“Dammit, Fidel!” I yelled. “Who’s going to clean this mess up? This was a custom-made tub. Do you know how much it’s going to cost to get a mason in here to rebuild it? Do you?! Dammit!”
Huge tears welled up in his dark eyes and rolled down his broad, flat cheeks. His toy frog let out a long, pathetic squeak as he squeezed it, its soapy beard dissolving into a stream that ran down his forearm.
Exasperated, one of the other aids sighed deeply. “Oh, Fidel…”
And then I woke up.
I was chuckling to myself about this dream as we were strolling down the sidewalk. I was debating telling you about it, wondering if it would make me seem too strange for you to like, if you’d take your hand from mine and wish me goodbye and good luck now that we were back at the place where we’d started. I was afraid that you, too, would think that you’d dodged a bullet. “Weird girl. At least she didn’t eat much, so I’m not out a ton of money for lunch.”
Then you said, “I want to kiss you, but not here.” All I could think of was how very perfect it would be to kiss you right there, in front of that fountain.
“Why not here?” I turned toward you, and you leaned into me and kissed me, and then I wasn’t thinking about the dream at all anymore, lost as I was in the feel and the taste of you, and hearing only the staccato rhythm of the water hitting the tiles in the shallow pool behind us.